Ohio's legislature has agreed to make the state the 25th in the nation to put laws on the books allowing for the possession and use of medical marijuana.
The decision comes after $20 million in pro-cannabis spending failed to convince voters to pass pro-pot recreational laws last November. Although the bill has gotten the OK by Ohio's Senate and House, it's yet to be signed into law by Ohio's Governor, John Kasich.
The former Republican candidate for president hasn't said if he'll sign the measure, so there's a chance he may veto it. The bill only passed Ohio's Senate by three votes, and in the past, Kasich hasn't been a big supporter of marijuana reform.
Last fall, the governor indicated in an appearance on Stephen Colbert's The Late Show that he has reservations regarding marijuana reform, saying, "We don't want to tell our kids 'don't do drugs, but by the way, this one is OK.'" Kasich also wasn't a supporter of last November's failed marijuana initiative.
If Kasich does give this bill his blessing, Ohio will begin allowing patients with two dozen medical conditions to use cannabis with a doctor's prescription. However, patients will need to rely on out-of-state suppliers until the infrastructure is in place for widespread access to medical marijuana in the state, and that could take a year or more.
Generally, Ohio's bill is similar to medical marijuana laws already on the books in similar states, but it falls short in some ways.
Specifically, while the law allows cannabis vaping and edibles, it doesn't allow smoking the herb, and patients won't be able to grow their own marijuana at home for use. Instead, marijuana growers will be overseen by the Ohio Department of Commerce, and the state's pharmacy board will handle registering patients and licensing dispensaries.
The bill's shortcomings are keeping marijuana advocates from cheering in the streets.
The Ohioans for Medical Marijuana and the Marijuana Policy Project are continuing their efforts to amend Ohio's constitution via a pro-pot question that could appear on the state's ballot this November. The group has until July 6 to collect the 305,000 signatures necessary to get their measure on the ballot this fall. If they do, it's unclear if their efforts will produce a different outcome with voters this time around.
Nevertheless, the fact that this medical marijuana bill overcame significant pushback to make its way to Kasich's desk is a good first step in marijuana reform. Now, all eyes are on Kasich to see if he signs it.
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